Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, yesterday announced a series of steps designed to improve human rights, including legislation to treat "honour killings" of women as murder.
General Musharraf told a government-sponsored rights convention in Islamabad that the practice of families killing women members whom they felt had brought shame would be regarded in the same way as any other murder. The "indiscriminate" use of chains on prisoners would also be banned and the use of a controversial blasphemy law restricted.
Further reforms will include a commission on the status of women and another to reform the police, widely criticised for corruption and inefficiencies. "This is the first time ever that Pakistan will have a permanent and independent commission ... to ensure that interests of women are protected and promoted," he said. "The government of Pakistan vigorously condemns the practice of so-called 'honour killings'. Under Pakistan's penal law, killing in the name of honour is murder."
The general, who seized power in a bloodless coup last October, said he wished to see Pakistan's gradual return to democracy. But he did not offer any indication of when that process was to begin.
He was applauded loudly when he said the use of chains on prisoners would end. "We believe this tool of indignity, which was an antiquity from our colonial past, can find no place in a civilised society," he said.
"Secondly, in order to stop the abuse of blasphemy laws, an administrative procedure has been instituted to ensure the first information report [from the police] is registered only after a preliminary investigation and scrutiny by the deputy commissioner personally."